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Compaq LTE 5000 Notebook --or-- "Anything's Worth 20 Bucks!"


Hey there! As you might imagine, this page and related resources are quite old at this point and not especially actively maintained. (I still own this computer and it works fine, apart from a dead clock and primary battery. However, it doesn't exactly see a lot of use these days.) The last time anything of any particular note changed or was updated here happened back in March 18th, 2007.

Those of you looking for Compaq LTE 5000 series parts are likely in for quite a challenge these days. It has been more than twenty years since these computers were introduced to the market and all manufacturer support ended long ago. By now many of these have gone to the trash or recycling centers. I don't have any parts for these systems and I don't know where you can get them. My only suggestion is try an online auction site such as eBay. Persistence at flea markets, hamfests, and web-based services such as Freecycle or Craigslist may also pay off.

Meanwhile, you can still read and utilize the information supplied here. As with most of the other web pages I've written and placed on this server, this page will remain available for as long as I can possibly keep it that way.

- WW, June 2016

Things to look at, learn from and possibly do:

LTE Disassembly Page
Clean the LTE Keyboard
LTE FAQ


Preface

 


The $20 special notebook!

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I would frequently visit a used business machines store. They had massive piles of equipment everywhere, including lots and lots of computers. As I grew up, that place was like heaven to me. It's also where I got a lot of the equipment I used to learn and study computers. I truly hoped it would never end. Of course, everything has a beginning, middle and (unfortunately in this case) an end. There came a day (how's this for timing?) during my high school career that I could slip away for part of the school day so my dad and I planned to go to this store. When we got there we found ourselves in the middle of their closing and moving away. I grabbed lots of what remained, filled our station wagon, and grabbed the LTE from a pile of laptops heading for the dumpster.

When it came time to pay for the machine, I bought it on a "if it was in that pile, it probably doesn't work" basis for $20.

After getting it home and cooking up a power supply, I was dismayed to see that the machine appeared to be hanging at POST and the battery was clearly almost worn out. I left it running at the POST screen and came back a few hours later. It had finally booted into a copy of Windows 98 so I decided that maybe the LTE was worth fixing up.


Brief Post-Purchase History

Many years later, I can truly say that I got more than my money's worth from the Compaq LTE 5000.

I had intentions of making this computer available to other members of my family, but about that time my primary laptop quit me and the 3rd party warranty was not being honored by its provider. So, I sold my main machine for parts and switched to the LTE after loading fresh software on it.

The LTE survived a year of high school and many, many long car trips and other excursions with only the loss of a floppy drive and the cooling fan getting a little noisier than it should be now and then. To me that's pretty impressive for a $20 machine with no warranty and no reason to keep working day-to-day. Some other LTE machines that I have acquired have donated parts to my LTE 5000, but not out of necessity...just out of desire to have a better performing part.

Today it exists with a 12GB hard disk taken from a Dell Latitude laptop that was destroyed by lightening ("Dude, you're getting a....BLAM!!!) and a 150MHz processor card taken from an LTE 5400 that inherited the former 133MHz processor card. For a while I was using a 133MHz processor card plucked from an LTE 5300 with a dead mainboard.

Quirkiness (Hardware and Software)

I can't say the machine has been without some strange behavior. As mentioned earlier I was dismayed at the first power up to see the machine hanging right after the POST memory count. From what I was able to gather at the time, the delay (often well over a minute after the memory count!) was simply a result of the latest flash BIOS update. That was a BIG relief!

It looks to me like the latest BIOS was rather hastily written without much regard to whether or not it really worked.

Many kind people have written in to say that earlier BIOS revisions for the LTE don't have this "long delay at POST" problem, confirming my suspicions that the last BIOS (07.32) was poorly written and has some kind of a bug. Personally, I have switched my LTE 5000 to release 07.20 and it has solved all problems with the slow POST issue for me. Your mileage may vary.

WARNING: Flashing any computer's BIOS is a risk! While it is very unlikely that anything could or would go wrong during the process, errors could occur. These errors could render your LTE unusable! DO NOT flash your BIOS if you don't know what you're doing or have no need to do so. The ONLY time to EVER flash any BIOS is if you have a problem known to be solved in a newer release of BIOS software.

I can take NO responsibility whatsoever for any result of flashing your LTE's BIOS! Do this strictly at your own risk or don't do it at all!


The previous owner set a password for standby, and I didn't discover it up until it was too late. It isn't much fun to delete the password either. Finding instructions wasn't easy, but they did turn up on Compaq's site after much searching. Turns out there is only one way to kill the password--and it isn't pulling the clock/standby battery. You've got the dissassemble the machine almost completely and flip a tiny jumper. Once you do that the password is gone but then you must reassemble the machine. It isn't hard, but the tiny size of everything makes it hard not to have screws wander off while you are trying to tighten them.

The onboard LCD (containing various indicators) acts totally messed up. While the picture below shows a generally correct display, you may be able to see the ghosts of other characters showing up when they shouldn't. This was finally replaced with an LCD from the same LTE 5300 that donated its processor card and now it works correctly.

Messed up display...

Again, this is more of a minor aggravation than it is a true loss of functionality. Just have to remember if I left the CAPS LOCK key on again... :-)

The system's cooling fan has had some problems staying on the road. After many years of heat and no doubt less than ideal cooling conditions, it would appear that the bearings in the fan are simply worn out. Trouble is, the fan is so small that a replacement has proven impossible to locate. Even if I found another machine and took the fan from there chances are it would have the same problem very soon.

UPDATE: I did find another fan (you guessed it) in the LTE 5300. This was installed and all fan related problems have gone away. Let's hope they stay away for some time to come!

The hibernation program as provided by Compaq doesn't work with FAT32 drives or any other non-FAT16 file system formatted drive*. In fact, it will destroy all data on the hard disk and wreck the partition table if you run the utility and/or try to hibernate the machine afterward. This isn't much of a problem, because I just never hibernate the machine. The FN+Standby keystroke may do the same if your machine's BIOS believes that it has a hibernation file. Therefore--keep your hands off of those keys and don't mess around with the hibernation utility if you use an OS that does not utilize a FAT16 filesystem.

* It is rumored that perhaps the hibernation utility is compatible with OS/2, but I do not know if this includes OS/2 systems using HPFS partitions.

Every now and then (especially on warm boots) the machine will operate exceptionally slowly. I believe this is another BIOS related problem in that something may not be getting properly reset upon warm booting. It does happen every once in a blue moon on a cold boot though.


Good Points

The quirks in the hardware aren't really all that serious if the features are more than enough to make up for them. The LTE 5000 has very decent hardware for a machine of its time.

Originally the machine had a 3GB hard disk installed in it at some point to replace the stock 528 (?) MB drive. Someone also put the maximum of 74MB RAM in it as well. Not bad for an $20 machine...

I have since installed a 12GB hard disk just because I had the good fortune of getting it for nothing from another machine that suffered a lightening hit. Those who want to do this should know that the latest BIOS (07.32) does support drives up to 8GB natively and higher if you use a disk manager program--freely available from most drive makers.

The display panel is limited to 640x480, but unlike lots of other laptops from that time, it can run in high (16 bit) color. Not really a must by any means, but it means no dithering or pallette shifts like happen on a 256 color adapter or mode. Video is provided with a Cirrus 7543 controller and 1MB VRAM. Seems to be enough.

IR port...

Coolest of all is the IR port on the machine. No it's not really needed, but it seems that fewer and fewer modern laptops are equipped with IR. Too bad--it's really handy for those times when a file transfer is needed and you just can't do it any other way. (I used the LTE to send the entire set of Windows 98 installation files to a ThinkPad 760EL, and it worked well despite being a study in what a long wait is.)

While a Pentium 75 processor is a bit overcome by the task of decoding MP3 audio with the Windows Media Player 6.4, or even WinAmp 2.83 it certainly does work and the machine's audio output works really well fed into earphones or a line input. Even the onboard speakers aren't too bad.

ACPI? What ACPI? Who Needs ACPI?

Another good point of the machine is the standby feature. Seems that lots of Windows 98 machines (especially those with a PhoenixBIOS) have real problems either going to sleep (rarely) or waking up (far, far more likely!). LTE does have the occasional problem waking up, but it isn't so bad that I'd call the standby feature unreliable.

(In case you were wondering, no, the LTE 5000 does not support ACPI*.)

The best point of all however is the "forcefullness" of the standby routine. Sometimes Windows 98 decides it is going to be stupid and not let the machine go to sleep, complaining of a device driver or program not allowing the system to standby. With most machines you can't rectify this problem short of a reboot and another try. Thankfully the LTE was built before a standby function 'cared' what a program or device driver thought of being put into standby and when the button is pressed to do so, the machine WILL go to sleep.

It is also very nice that once it is sleeping it will stay that way. I've seen many a laptop or other computer that would "wake up" if something happened like a modem ringing or just because it was inconvenient. Many hardware manufacturers could take a cue from this aspect of the LTE 5000, in my opinion and make a computer that goes to sleep when the standby button is pressed and doesn't wake up until the user pushes the button again.
Hardware I've Used With The Machine
Netgear and Eiger SCSI cards
Generally I've used my LTE with only the onboard peripherals. Usually I have only had a NIC installed in one of the PCMCIA slots.

I've used many different NICs over time, starting with an Eiger card, moving to a dual-purpose 3COM card, and finally making the jump to a Xircom 10/100 card. Now I've set up a wireless access point and while the first attempt with a Linksys WPC-11 card did not go well, a Netgear MA401 has worked excellently. I misplaced the MA401 a while back, so now I'm using a Microsoft MN-520.

I suppose it was more poor design than anything else that made the Linksys card fail. In the bottom PCMCIA slot it wouldn't even register as a card (just a blank "something" showed up as being installed) and when in the top slot, it didn't work reliably.

From time to time I also use an Eiger SCSI PCMCIA card. I've used it with a flatbed scanner, a 6 disc CD changer, external ZIP drive, and at present, an IBM 3510 enclosure with CD-ROM II drive installed. All devices have worked well with the adapter.
3510 with CD-ROM II

Conclusion

To be honest, I typed this up when I was bored, so maybe it's kind of pointless to read, but I'm pleased at having gotten such a good laptop for only $20. And who knows--maybe this page could be useful to someone else presented with the chance to get a similar computer in a similar situation?

In March of 2005 I finally broke down and bought a brand new laptop...a Dell Latitude D800. To be quite honest, I hope it lasts every bit as long as the LTE managed to, if not longer. The LTE 5000 is still running today (03/2007) and has been reconfigured to work as a portable Wi-Fi/Ethernet/Token Ring network testing tool. It does this job very well. I will be rather disappointed if the Dell cannot manage the stellar reliability record established by my trusty old LTE 5000!

* ACPI - Advanced Crap causing Power Irritations, just in case you were wondering. ;-)
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